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Round up debate rages!

Quite an emotive subject, especially with the ongoing case(s) in America regarding the safety of Glyphosate. But as the dust settles slightly let’s look at the facts. Opinions on this subject may vary, but this is what I believe from years working within an Industry where we rely on Glyphosate.

Yes, I have heard of cases where the product has been misused. Yes, not all glyphosate-based products are equal and yes, I understand the arguments against its use but used in line with Best Practice Guidelines by trained competent technicians with correct advice from a BASIS advisor, there is, in my opinion no better product on the market today for the control of Agricultural, Amenity and Invasive weeds.

Let’s talk about why.

So, what is Glyphosate?

In short, Glyphosate is an active ingredient in a variety of herbicides used to control broadleaf weeds and grasses. Glyphosate works by preventing plants from making certain proteins that are necessary for growth. When used precisely and according to label instructions, herbicides help to keep weeds from competing with crops for water, sunlight and nutrients, and is the go-to product for the control of Invasive weeds.

Why is Glyphosate hated?


This is not a new situation but following the highly publicised court case in America of Dewayne Johnson, a former schools groundkeeper claimed that using Glyphosate caused his Cancer, the arguments for banning the use of Glyphosate came to the fore with social media lapping up the storylines.

Now let’s put some context into this.

Is glyphosate a carcinogen?


The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has stated that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.”

New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Agency concluded in a report issued in August 2016 that glyphosate is “unlikely to be carcinogenic” and should not be classified as a mutagen or carcinogen.

In a joint report issued in May 2016, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) said glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans” exposed to it through dietary exposure.

Alternatively, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a statement in March 2015 that classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” but WHO and IARC also noted there was limited evidence of glyphosate’s carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Does glyphosate cause cancer?


The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) said glyphosate is “Unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans” through dietary exposure in May 2016. Before the FAO and WHO report in 2016, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a statement in March 2015 that classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” WHO and IARC also noted there was limited evidence of glyphosate’s carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

An epidemiologic review of studies on glyphosate that appeared in the Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology Journal found no evidence of “a causal relationship between any disease and exposure to glyphosate.”

Why is Glyphosate important?


In Agriculture it is used in stubble fields for weed control before planting and before new crops start to appear. It is also used on cereals and oilseed rape before harvest to help make harvesting easier, control weeds, reduce disease and the potential for natural contaminants to develop, and to curb the number of weeds in the following season. Glyphosate reduces the need for ploughing, which helps the environment through reducing CO2 emissions, minimising soil erosion, and improving soil quality.

In Amenity weed control, Glyphosate used on our streets for timely control of annual weeds, in the control of Invasive weeds such as Japanese Knotweed, which uncontrolled, we would have loss of our Amenity space, loss of biodiversity, depleted property values. Using a high grade, high concentration Glyphosate in effect supports the Environmental need to reduce packaging waste and there is less product to transport.

In conclusion


Are there alternatives to Glyphosate? Yes, Glyphosate has been with us since the 1970’s so the product must be good. Right? Yes. Glyphosate based products used correctly with calibrated knapsacks and sprayers with highly trained technicians is a cost-effective method of controlling common, invasive and agricultural weed growth and in this time of heightened costs to our living standards also keeps our food grown within the UK proportionate.

The alternatives to Glyphosate all have a place but can one of those tick every box? In my opinion, no they can’t. Now as an integrated approach to weed control they all have a part to play, but that’s another topic for next time.

This article will not appease everyone, its one side of an argument which is set to rumble on for years, new standards are being introduced, The Amenity Forum, BASIS the Property Care Association, all work tirelessly to ensure that all contractors are qualified, complete ongoing development of their skills.

The Amenity Standard is a benchmark which all Contractors should aspire to, and no organisation should employ a Contractor without this standard. Glyphosate is here to stay, I hope, we need to educate people on the benefits, not just the negative narrative born by journalists with no inherent knowledge or facts, just to get a like on a website or forum or to get a story on a bad news day.

With over 35 years within the Alien Invasive Weed sector and a solid foundation in Agriculture I can see the benefits of Glyphosate and I can see the issues we will have if we lose this product. Increased costs in Amenity management, the risk to our biodiversity due to the encroachment of Invasive species, detriment to our built Environment.

Don’t just kick the Glyphosate can to the kerb, look closely at the alternatives, are they as effective in the situation required? are they as cost effective? what is the long-term efficacy? Base your argument on fact, implement an integrated approach.


By Patrick James Larkin MSc.Env.

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